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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  September 3, 2009 12:00am-1:00am EDT

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wednesday? we'll get the reality check from two house democrats tonight as we start the program. also, tom ridge has a book out, as we all know, on what he sensed was happening on the eve of that 2004 election. tonight, we ask him if he stands by his book. we are going to take a look at that terrible abduction case in california. how could government fail so spectacularly in protecting children from a known sex offender? what do we do with these people to keep them from doing it again and again and again? plus serious analysis on "the politics fix" tonight from nbc's david gregory of meet the press and ron brownstein on the high dilemmas facing president obama. escalate or get out of afghanistan? and can he unite the democrats on health care? finally, what did levi johnston hear as he sat around the house? that is where it belongs to night in "the sideshow." we begin with the fight within
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the democratic party over health care reform. michael arcuri is a democrat and a member of the blue dog coalition. chaka fattah needs no introduction. he is from philadelphia and sits on the appropriations committee. i want to talk about the blue dogs. mr. arcuri, is there a good chance the democratic party can come up with 218 votes necessary to pass a health care bill this year in the house of representatives? >> chris, i think a lot depends on what the final bill looks like. i personally think it is necessary we have health care reform. the present system is unsustainable. i happen to support a public option. we need to make sure we come together, that the bill is deficit neutral, that it, you know, that it's affordable for it, that it talks about things like preventative care, home health care, incentivizing primary care physicians. those are the things i'll be looking for.
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>> just to put it down, you're a democrat, right? you're a democrat? >> that's correct. >> your party and its platform still matter, said you are for accessible, affordable health care for all? >> that's correct. >> that is what you are for? >> that's what i'm for. let's go to congressman fattah. do the democratic party in the liberal base are you guys and women willing to live with a compromised bill if it is necessary to get something through the house of representatives and therefore to the president's desk? >> well, i think what i would tell you is there is almost no difference between where i stand on this and where mike stands. i'm for a public option. i'm for accessible health care, i'm for making sure that it's deficit neutral. i don't think there is a lot of disagreement among democrats. there were differences that got worked out, as they always do. i think the bill was improved by the input of the blue dogs in terms of making sure that we raise the exception level on small businesses, did some other things that needed to be done.
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i think that you're going to see that we have the votes in the house to move a health care bill, that the president who they counted on on the stimulus bill, we passed it. counted on on the budget, we passed it. this is the same noise we heard a couple weeks before those votes. democrats in the house have the majority, we know what our mandate is. we are going to make sure once and for all after 60 plus years of this that we provide health care and make it affordable to everyone in this country. >> let's listen to former president bill clinton on the politics of this issue. let's listen. >> i'm just telling you, we need to pass a bill and it needs to be the best bill we can get through congress. doing nothing is not only the worst thing we can do for the economy and the worst thing we can do for health care, it's the worst thing we can do for the democrats and don't you think the republicans don't know it. >> who is he talking to mr. acuri? >> he is talking to all america. we need to pass the best bill we
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can. we need to do it the right way. we don't need to just pass a bill. we need to pass the best bill we can. that is what we are looking for. not just to pass any bill. that would be politics. >> that is not what he is saying. no. no. you are missing the point. i'm sorry to contradict you. you're missing the point. the former president is saying if you don't pass a bill this year you have given the republicans an issue. is what he's saying. if you don't pass a bill -- just by that fact, you don't agree with that? >> you know, i think that i can talk about myself. i think that's the last thing -- >> no. i want you to focus on what president bill clinton said there. you need to pass a bill. let me quote to you and congressman chaka fattah another point. in the "washington post," white house officials have made it clear they believe that if you don't get a bill through this year you basically have given an
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issue to the democrats that you can't govern the country. >> news flash. we are going to get a bill this year. we are going to pass a bill out of the house and the senate. the president is going to be putting his signature on a health care bill this year. the notion we are not going to get a bill done is built up by the opposition. we understand how important this is. >> congressman arcuri said you only want the right bill. you don't just want some bill. what are you talking about then? >> we want a good bill, not just any bill. >> what to you mean by any bill? i'm asking you, do you agree with the former president, if you don't pass some bill you're in trouble? you say it has to be a particular bill. >> i think it has to be -- that is my responsibility to pass the very best bill we can. >> of course. >> is there any conceptual notion where you can imagine where it's better for the democrats to go down in defeat? can you imagine a scenario where it's better to lose than to win?
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that is all i'm asking. can you imagine a scenario where it's better to lose? >> the worst thing we can do is pass a bad bill. that's what i'm hearing from my constituents. that is what they want from me. that's who i'm responsible to. >> a bill that isn't the bill you want is a bad bill? >> chris, the white house has said that the bill that we have in the house, the bill that we have in the house, the bill that came out of the senate health committee is about 85% to 90% of what they want to get done. we know we have a consensus that is building and the democratic party is going to be prepared to vote for it. we are going to have blue dogs and liberals and all of us moving in unison. we might even find a republican or two. >> let me ask you about the public option. the public option bill here. if you push through a house bill with 218 votes out of the house that has a public option in it, you go to the conference with the senate because they have to
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get 60 votes and come back to the conference and conference report comes back, mr. arcuri, you first, what will you do if it doesn't have a public option in it, has a bill to regulate the insurance companies so they can't exploit this thing but doesn't have a public option. what would you do? >> i'm not married to the public option if the bill is good and it ensures, you know, a majority of the americans that are uninsured and we can pay for it and makes sense, i would support it. >> okay. that's a very important answer. what do you think, mr. fattah? >> we have crop insurance, flood insurance, pension insurance, we need to provide health insurance. >> what would you do if you got a conference report that didn't have a public option in it? >> i'm not dealing with the hypothetical. it is going to have a public option. three parties of this conference committee. the senate democrats, house democrats and white house are in control of the conference committee. the house's position is strongly in favor of a public option. we are going to get some of what we want. the senators are going to get some of what they want.
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the white house is going to get 80% of what they want. i think all of these issue, the deficit neutrality, the public option and regulating insurance companies so if you have insurance it's actually worth having. i think all of that is going to be represented in the final product. >> let me ask you a particular question. there is an issue if the democrats can agree. here's what dan baltz wrote in today's "washington post." white house officials have been cautioning their democratic officials on capitol hill that the party will rise or fall together. that failure is the worst possible outcome of the health care debate because of what it would say about the democrats' ability to govern. the way i read that, congressmen, both of you, if you don't get a bill through the republicans and public and press will say you can't govern. is that your assessment, mr. arcuri? >> the press is going to say, with all due respect, whatever the press wants to say about it.
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i think our primary responsibility is to pass a bill and pass a good bill. again, that's what i'm focused on is passing the very best bill we possibly can. >> congressman fattah, do you agree the democrats on the hill, and you control 218 votes, enough to pass and you control 59 senate seats, perhaps 60 by the time you vote in the senate, you have enough seats by the public's arithmetic to do the job you got elected to do. if you can't get a bill done do you think that will look bad for the democrats? >> we would deserve to be punished at the polls if we don't do something about the health care crisis. 14,000 losing their health insurance every day. chris, we are going to get a bill passed. the president is going to be signing a bill before we get to a new year that's going to provide health care for every american. >> it is great to hear you. sometimes when i listen to people who are political you have to take positions at the beginning of a debate that you may not be able to hold at the end.
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sometimes i hear what can be adamant positions which may well be very appropriate positions to take as you begin this debate. thank you, gentlemen. i'm trying to move you forward to the end of the debate. i know you're not there yet. congressman arcuri, don't get mad at me. i'm trying to get answers. thank you very much for coming on. you're great to come on. my friend chaka fattah is always welcome on "hardball." a great man. the phillies can't be stopped. thank you, sir, joining me. tom ridge, author of the new book, suspects politics might be involved in how we set the terror alert levels, at least the way people were talking about it. we're going to ask him about that next. you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. i was in the grocery store when i had a heart attack.
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welcome back to "hardball." for the last two weeks a new book by former homeland security secretary tom ridge made headlines with ridge's suggestion that politics may have played a role in the thinking and discussions about our national security alerts. that book is called "the test of our times." it's in bookstores now. the former governor and former homeland security joins us from new york. he's at 30 rock. i'm holding a copy of your book. i'm holding it right below my head here. should we believe every word in this book? >> i hope you do, chris. in that book i repeat things i said as secretary. i repeat things i told you on "hardball." i repeat things time and time again. >> this is the bible according to tom ridge? >> yes, it is. this book i'm holding in my hand. >> my reflection on what transpired. we were never pressured. the system was designed -- >> i just want to know -- i'm going to be tough here, my friend. i'm going to ask you about what is in this book. this is the book i'm holding in my hand, again.
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let me read some passages from the bible of truth. quote, and this is a discussion of a meeting that was held the weekend before the 2004 election after the release of a bin laden videotape. let me quote to you your own words, a vigorous, some might say a dramatic discussion ensued, ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was support by rumsfeld. and i wondered, is this about security or politics? you stand by that? >> i certainly stand by it. your interpretation -- >> no. i'm not interpreting a word. i'm reading it. what part did i misinterpret? i'm reading it. i wondered, is this about security or politics? do you stand by that? >> i stand by the words that i wrote, chris. i stand by the process that i helped design. i stand by the notion that nobody pressured anybody. we had those meetings on several occasions about which you will never know when people rendered
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opinions, the process worked, nobody pressured anybody, but at that time, the weekend before the election as the one responsible for homeland security, i knew, because we didn't see any justification for going up by my two respected colleague did. is this something i'm missing? this is a muse. it is not suggesting that their motives on that occasion or any other occasion was to pressure me or impose politics. every decision that they made and every recommendation that they made on multiple other meetings that day and many, many times before, many of which you don't know about because we did not raise the threat system, was based on their assessment of what was in the best interest of the country. they weren't trying to pressure anybody. they were trying to keep the country safe. >> you said there was no support in your department for raising the threat level. none, as you put it, to emphasize the point. then you said at the time of the meeting, i wondered, this is tom ridge wondering, is this about security or politics? what are you wondering about at the time?
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>> i'm wondering at the time. the weekend is drama, the process is something we dealt with the entire time. as i say in the book and you look earlier in the book, i say there's no way anybody can manipulate the process because it was designed to get the collective opinion of the president's homeland security council. if there is a collective opinion we raise the threat, general gordon or fran townsend went in. if you talked to those members, nobody felt pressured, they rendered honest opinions. it is a dramatic weekend or year because earlier that year, i've got to be thinking about if you are responsible, because you are, we go up, were the implications long term for the governors and the mayors? it was also the same year and a couple months after a terrorist attack changed, altered the political outcome of an election in spain. i think you remember that. we probably talked about it. >> i remember it well. >> i'm musing. we don't think we go up, trusted colleagues think we go up. they weren't making the recommendation because they thought it was politics. they were making the recommendation because they thought it was the right thing
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to do. i'm musing. i'm not speculating about their motives. >> you say, it seemed possible to me and others around the table that something could be afoot other than simple concern about the country's safety. you stand by that? >> it is there. >> what was afoot? >> this is all in the context of the timing of this discussion, the effect of a terrorist attack in madrid, spain, and as the author i'm thinking about that dramatic moment. i don't recount everything that was said. some people said there was a political discussion there. i don't remember that at all. i'm musing about what happened. at the end of the day the system worked. remember, chris this is not the only time this group met. more often than not when we met we did not raise the threat level. nobody was pressured. everyone made decisions based on what they thought was the best interest of america.
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pure and simple. >> you said it seemed possible to yourself and others around the table something could be afoot other than the government's concern -- who were the other people around the table who had these concerns something might be afoot? >> chris, let's talk about this. there was a lot of speculation in the media at that time because of what happened in madrid, the bin laden tape, will we postpone the election? some people thinking maybe we ought to go up. i'm musing at the time, i wonder if it is good idea -- will america feel more secure going to the polls if we raise the threat level? will they not? i'm an author writing about this, i'm telling you here today, now, we had that discussion on many occasions, chris. you and i talked about it. held press conferences. nobody bothered to look beyond the colors to learn how the process was working. the process worked very effectively because it was immune from any political manipulation. you had strong people who had strong opinions. it was competitive intelligence.
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they rendered the opinions, chris, and when the opinions said we ought to go up, we went up. the opinions were rendered on what these men individually thought on what was the best interest of keeping america secure. >> the third quote is, i believe the strong interventions pulled the go-up advocates back from the brink. i consider that episode not only the be a dramatic moment in washington's history but the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security. >> right. >> that episode, after that episode i knew i had to follow through on my plans to leave the federal government. >> chris, i talk about several instances. after 9/11 world, chris, you and i have had many conversations about this. terrorism became something very much both parties used sometimes correctly and incorrectly. the debate about what we needed to do to combat terrorism was robust, rigorous. partisan divide on many issues. let's face it. the decisions about dubai ports, the decision of going after max cleland that i talk about in the book, where an intersection of
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where politics, fear, security, and government came into play. a statement of fact, new world, new environment, something else we plug into our calculations. unfortunately, that is the world we live in. i mused about it but i did not want to speculate and will never speculate on the motives of my colleagues. >> the "usa today" has a headline, after an interview with you following this book -- >> back pedalling. >> did you backpedal? did you back pedal on what you wrote in the book or is this article wrong? >> i think it is wrong. i think i told the woman who interviewed me and didn't believe me and perhaps you don't. if you look at the history of my public statements where i say regardless of what agents -- bloggers -- regardless of what columnists, bloggers, critics, commentators say, you can't -- the system works. you can't manipulate the system because -- >> i think you are saying two
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things differently -- two different things that are very consistent. let me try to say it my way. you're saying you sensed when you went to those meetings there were people with politics on their mind. you said it two or three different ways but in the end nobody tried to strong arm you? >> well, who knows. >> i think that's what you're saying. i think you're not going to be backtracking on these words that will be quoted in history books. you are not going to go back in the paperback version to change any of this? >> i may have you do the narrative. >> are you going to change this? in the next edition? >> i'm not going change anything. >> you are standing by your words and don't feel any need to clarify? >> when we go into paperbacks i will change the cover that says i was pressured. there is nothing in the book that says i was pressured. i don't believe i was ever pressured. >> why do people get that idea from reading the book? >> i think people get the idea because they didn't read the book, chris. >> i'm reading it. i'm looking at it. i didn't go by any press release. we are not getting anywhere.
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i think it is possible you are consistent here, governor. the consistent statement is you smelled politics in the room but nobody twisted your arm, that is what i think the message is. if you want to counter that in two seconds. go ahead. >> chris, it is "hardball." you can draw your own conclusions. you normally do. >> no, i don't. governor, let me ask you one last time. i'm not going to -- >> i stand by my words in the book. >> is this about security or politics, i wondered. it seemed possible to me and others around the table that something could be afoot other than concern of the country's safety. i consider that moment of another illustration of the intersection of politics, fear, credibility and security. any reasonable person would hear those three citations and say this guy smelled politics around that table. >> this guy knows that after 9/11, politics somehow, someplace, somewhere, right or wrong, was involved in a lot of decisions we made. this guy does not believe that politics was ever a factor in the decision making that we had
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in order to raise the threat level. >> only at the table, but not in the decision making. >> right. you're not going to convince me and i'm not going to convince you. no matter how hard i try. >> i think you are doing a different emphasis. the emphasis in the book was the politics. the emphasis since the book has come out is to emphasize the fact you weren't strong armed. that's what i think was consistent in your argument. it was just a different point of view. senator, governor, i give you all these titles tonight. the only one that matters is author, tom ridge "the test of our times" now in your bookstores. this guy's going to be -- you were on ron owens in san francisco last night. you were on "rachel maddow" last night. at least you are getting a lot of attention. thank you very much. >> the book was designed to generate some light. it generated heat in the wrong direction. i'm grateful to have the chance to talk to you about it. >> as long as you got the editors at that publishing house you are going to have more heat. thank you governor tom ridge who
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stands by every word in this book. up next, levi johnston, the teenage father of sarah palin's grandchild writes about life with the palins. "vanity fair" magazines that's in "the sideshow." (announcer) that ball is going, going, gone! home run! (announcer) he's sweet. even with one third less sugar than soda. kool-aid. delivering more smiles per gallon. just because they're inside you doesn't mean they're protected. oh, ladies. let's say you have osteoporosis. i do. you could be losing bone strength. can i get it back? (announcer) ask your doctor how to help treat osteoporosis with once-a-month actonel. actonel is clinically proven to help increase bone rength to help prevent fractures. so you can get back some of what you lost. do not take actonel if you have low blood calcium, severe kidney disease, or cannot sit or stand for 30 minutes. follow all dosing instructions.
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back to "hardball." time for "the sideshow." first more baked alaska. look, the only reason this stuff from levi johnston is going on this show is because a year ago governor sarah palin was the actual republican candidate for vice president. the 19-year-old, that is levi johnston has written now an article titled "me and mrs. palin" where he tells all kinds of stuff he overheard in those inglorious days after last november's election loss to
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barack obama. here's one. sarah palin couldn't believe they were saying she lost the election for mccain. she would say things like, quote, i brought everything to the table, end quote. the majority of the people were there voting because of me. well, she definitely thought she was running for president. that's levi johnston writing there. there is a yuck factor in all this palin stuff. next up, dick cheney gets called to account. let's watch the latest democratic national committee ad set to air on cable tv nationwide tomorrow. >> my belief is we will in fact be greeted as liberators. >> calm ended today when three car bombs exploded in quick succession. >> there is no doubt saddam hussein has weapons of mass destruction. >> there are no weapons of mass destruction. >> the enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential. >> i think the interrogations were in violation of the geneva conventions and the convention against torture.
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>> the democratic national committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. >> that's pretty obvious, anyway and rather undeniable. talk about red meat. minnesota congresswoman michele bachmann was at a denver fund-raiser this week when she maid a serious promise to torpedo health care reform. this is a direct quote from the congresswoman. what we have to do is make a covenant to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. this will not pass. we will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn't pass. by the way, she was the one who wanted all democrats in congress investigated for un-americanism. now she's into this slit wrist and blood brothers stuff. throw this in with the gun toting and birth certificate demanding and texas secessionist movement and you've got some strange brew up there. horrific abduction case in california. has our government failed to protect our children from a known registered sex offender? a felon? tried activia? i am definitely a skeptic. my commercials didn't convince you?
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calmer wins and cooler temperatures are helping firefighters get a handle on the massive wildfire north of los angeles. the fire burned close to 220 square miles. and destroyed more than 5 dozen homes. hurricane jimena made landfall this afternoon as a relatively minor category 1 storm. no major damage or injuries were report. a man accused of shooting a security guard at the holocaust museum made his first appearance in court today. a judge ruled 89-year-old james von brunn will remain behind bars until trial. the security and exchange commission released its report on how bernie madoff's $65
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billion ponzi scheme went unnoticed for more than 16 years. agency assigned inexperienced investigators who accepted implausible explanations after receiving numerous tips that madoff was engaged in a massive fraud. now back to "hardball." welcome back to "hardball." of course that harrowing story of an 11-year-old girl kidnapped and held hostage for an amazing 18 years is more harrowing because the man accused was a registered sex offender. more than that he had regular visits from parole officers. why wasn't he found out? is our government doing enough to keep children safe from sex offenders? joining me right now, former prosecutor, wendy murphy. we're off our usual terrain of talking national politics. this is about politics. it's about the ability of government to protect us, to do the most basic thing in our
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society, keep us safe. why was a character like this out? he kidnapped someone, he raped someone, the same person. then he got out and apparently he was taken back in on a parole violation. during the time he had been holding this young girl, sort of a white slave in the back of his house and having two children with her. how did he get away with that in america? >> first of all, you're absolutely right. it's a political issue. it takes leadership and commitment to the equality of women and children as citizens in this country to actually do right in our legal system. what i mean by do right is, make sure when you're locking up, arresting, prosecuting, doing parole supervision around men who target women and children for violence that you don't give out discounts because the people they pick on are somewhat politically marginalized. >> i want to ask a question here.
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because i think it is different. somebody who murders their spouse after a 20-year fight is in a unique state of horror and is passionate and we sort of understand that's probably not a life of crime. if something can be dealt with with a ten-year prison sentence or 20-year prison sentence. there is a recidivism rate with sex offenders, 100%. >> i'm only for a moment going to give you a pass on the comment about the guy who kills his wife. i can't let that go. i'm sorry, chris. i understand your point. here is what sex offenders mean to us and particularly women and children. they are prolific. they are mobile. they are predatory. they are opportunistic and studies show, and you can read this in anna salter's book, "predators." it's all there. studies show the average sex offender has over 100 different victims during his lifetime, okay? that's why they need to go away forever. nonetheless our legal system doles out such deep discounts. joe biden when he was a senator submitted a report to congress
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in the 1990s that said on average less than 2% of rapists spend one day behind bars and on average all sex offenders spend way less time behind bars than people who commit property crimes. that is how little respect we have for women and children in this country. >> i'm not going to let you take a free shot at me either, here. if a woman knocks her husband off after 20 years of beating her she's had enough and she kills the guy, she's not likely to kill again. that's a crime in itself. that is the point i was making. don't jump on me when i'm trying to make a distinction about predators who are relentless. don't jump on me when you're i'm trying to make a point. >> i understand. >> i know what you are trying to do. don't use me as a tackling dummy. >> no, i didn't. i just didn't agree with you. >> no. you jumped on me. what do we do with people like this? what do we do with them?
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>> well, number one. it would help if we punish them when they get caught the first time. then they have less of an opportunity to commit the other 99 offenses. number one. number two -- >> after you let them out five or ten years after a molestation case. it is not a capital case. it's not a rape case. it's a crime. how many years would they normally get for that, child molestation, what would they normally get? >> if what you mean by molestation is something not rape, a lot of states mean rape when they say molestation. if you mean a pat on the fanny, they're going to get out, let's at least make sure people monitoring them, the probation officers and parole officers are doing their jobs. this guy was on parole in california. regular visits from a parole officer. the neighbors knew there were kids in the back yard and a parole officer didn't and they said he didn't have any parole violations during the time. we had him from 1999 to last month. he had no violations.
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he had a big whopping violation going on in his backyard. they cared so much about the things he had done wrong and they were so unconcerned about what he had done wrong they couldn't look in the backyard? that's a reflection of how little they looked into the time he commit. >> what about the judge -- what about the judge who gave him a rather lenient sentence for a fellow who was supposed to have served 50 years for kidnapping and rape across interstate lines and reduced it dramatically after a guy wrote a letter to him? >> another big fraud of the public. that happens every day in this country. he got 50 years behind bars and everybody said isn't that terrific? that is what he deserves for what he did. the fraud on the public is a few years later he filed for a reduction and he did ten years, not 50. guess what? there was no public disclosure. there was no front page news story about the big discount he got, now was there? no. that gave him a chance to grab that little girl, impregnate her, rape her, god knows what
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else he did in his own backyard where the neighbors knew what was going on but no cop, no parole officer. are you kidding me? why are we not marching in the streets? here's another political issue. where is the national organization for women on this? where are the rape crisis centers? where is the outrage this guy was doing that under the nose of parole officers and no one saw? are you kidding me? i want a lawsuit. i will sue that parole office so fast. they will spend so much money paying that family for what they went through, they'll never blow it again. >> wendy murphy, that is why we had you on. thank you very much for coming up. it is a big issue. thank you very much for coming on. the big challenges facing president obama, health care and the war in afghanistan. with david gregory, the moderator of "meet the press." he'll join us right here. this is "hardball" only on msnbc. ( thud ) ouch! minus the delivery price. ♪ for fresh delivery taste without the delivery price, it's digiorno. ♪
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the president embraced a public option as part of this pool for uninsured americans and small businesses as a way of promoting competition with private insurance companies to get them the best possible deal. he still believes in that competition and choice and will be promoting that idea. >> welcome back to "hardball." that was white house senior adviser david axelrod in an interwith view nbc's chuck todd. time for "the politics fix" with david gregory and ron brownstein. the political director of atlanta media. gentlemen, i'm going to give you more time than usual on "hardball."
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these are big questions. we know the president is going to speak to a joint session a week from tonight to make the final big push. the big push and more. david gregory, what can he do to make the big push work for health care? >> he has to clear up the confusion. that's one of the things they want to do. second, they have to get the base excited and working for this again. they feel if there's been a clarifying period in all of this summer it is they know where the right is and where they're not and where they're not is with them at all. they don't have the votes. they want to get the base back in. the president is not in a position to say here is what i'm for, this is what i'm running on. he is going to clear up confusion that exists on the left of whether he's going to ditch the public option or not. those are the three main points. >> do you think he will make the call, the diamond cut on the public option? >> i still think he is going to position himself for a negotiation. he is negotiating with himself at this point, his own party. he wants -- >> the reason is he needs to get
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the house to pass a bill to go to conference. he's afraid if he forecloses a public option they won't even come to conference. >> absolutely right. the final point, the president's thinking is the left really going to abandon me when we are poised to achieve more than what ted kennedy thought could be achieved over the past three decades? >> if he can keep, to follow that point, if he can keep the left the base of the party, the big city guys with him to get a house bill passed and get something out of the senate, it becomes harder for the democratic liberals to vote against a conference report? out of both houses? >> the bottom line that any bill that passes, any bill that can get to conference will substantially increase access to insurance for millions of americans. >> you are making the case that is the case. >> and probably spend something in the neighborhood of $90 billion to $100 billion a year to help people who do not have health insurance to obtain it and also while doing that make
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fundamental reforms to the insurance industrial that liberals have long sought. with that included in the package, it is hard any liberal members could justify in the end voting for it because it does not go as far as they want on the public plan. this is a test to democrats. are they capable of overcoming the differences to govern. >> it is the end that matters, not the way to get there. if you can get accessible, affordable health care for all americans one way to do it might be through the private sector. you make it like a utility. the government watches it, makes sure they have access to people with preexisting conditions, gives them portability. really does the job that a public option would achieve through competition. is that possible? can he sell that to liberals? >> well, yeah. if you can sell the idea of delayed gratification. maybe there is a trigger, a backup mechanism to allow for competition if they find the private insurers are not doing what they need. remember what the president said more recently. the public option is a sliver of health care. a sliver.
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the republicans are saying, oh you're going to have 100 million people, that's what the cbo is saying, really, actually there'll be more people in private insurance because you'd be offering more subsidies and what not and the number of people in a public plan would be about 10 million people. the white house is saying this is not about 100 million people -- >> doesn't the idea of a public plan look like the foot in the door for national health? >> and it does to many -- >> conservatives. >> -- conservatives. but david's point is absolutely right. but for the left to say they should live and die on the public plan when based on the version of the public plan already advancing, you're only going to see about 10 million people in it by 2020, that is not -- that has never been the corner stone of this proposal. and it's worth noting that even amid all this august, there's been a counter movement going on. you are seeing many of the key stake holders in the medical establishment, including forces that have opposed almost every previous effort of reform, like the american medical association, like the drug manufacturers, like the hospitals, working with groups like the service employees
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international union. next week, the president speaking and he's holding a conference with walmart and intel and at&t to talk about the common principles for reform working together with tom daschle and bob dole. >> we saw the house -- basically the idea is if you can get an agreement, the problem the liberals will go along with it. back to the senate, he needs 60 votes probably, do you agree with that? you probably need 60? he only has 59 members because of the loss of ted kennedy. olympia snowe from maine is a possible. is that the only route to the indies here? >> the way you get a senator snowe is by retaining within your caucus the more conservative members. ben nelsons and others who are not going to go for a public option who could be brought around on some co-op option. >> to get any republicans, you first of all have to get all of the democrats and that has to be a pretty moderate plan. >> i'm not convinced that the
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president thinks it's such a horrible idea to go the route of reconciliation. you can push this through with a simple majority. >> and the idea may be to have a two-bill strategy. >> have you ruled it out? >> no, it may be difficult to unify every democrat. but the fact they have so many stake holders, as i said that have been traditionally been antagonistic not only to reform, but each other, unifying on the central principles may make it more comfortable. there are 22 democrats in the senate, chris, and states that voted no more than one democratic president in this decade. so they have a lot of people from difficult terrain who have different electoral calculations and barbara boxer and chuck schumer. and that has to be part of the reality. >> it's hard to tell people from
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big cities everybody who's a democratic liberal that there's a country out there. how does the president get in or get out of afghanistan? a war he has to fight? you're watching "hardball" only on msnbc. iptions for just $4 for up to a 30-day supply and no gimmicks. save money. live better. walmart. we call the bunches in honey bunches of oats the prize in the box. well, now there's a prize inside the prize. pecans! pecans! baked into crunchy oat bunches. taste the delicious surprise in every spoonful. new honey bunches of oats with pecan bunches. beautiful.
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we're back with the moderator of meet the press david gregory. and ron brownstein for this fix. there are options. public option -- let me go with this much more serious question, i guess for the countries, we
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have men dying and women dying over there in afghanistan. a lot of straight reporting on the major papers today saying the government over there we're defending is corrupt, the election may have stolen the election. a lot of people think like joe biden, apparently the vice president believes the smarter course is a standback position, get our troops offshore, have the ability to go in there and fight al qaeda if it comes back. >> well, the big question in afghanistan, what are we fighting for? and i think this is a big topic of debate within the administration. there are military commanders saying, look, we can live with the taliban at some level, the taliban's not coming to get us. what we have a problem with is al qaeda, live with a weakened taliban and find a way to get out. there may be lots of collateral damage. >> how do you separate divorce, if you will the taliban led by omar who is still on the loose somewhere in pakistan to his old ties to al qaeda? our mortal enemy? >> we have to find a way to forever separate those two. but the taliban passed a
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nationalist movement that wants to take over afghanistan does not want to attack the united states. you have to find a way really with pakistan's help to make sure that al qaeda's significantly weakened. >> can an american president deal openly with the taliban? >> very difficult. but they've already narrowed their sights relative to bush. they're probably going to have to narrow their sights further. the president has more rope and control of this debate that it often seems. even after public opinion turned after the war in vietnam, we stayed there five more years. same thing in iraq, bush was able to maintain control till the end. obama's going to face more pressure, but it's still hard to imagine his party instigating a full scale revolt to undermine the policy. so really the decision i think remains still in his hands. >> and i think a strong allegiance there that you wouldn't think. does the president have the option to pull back from an aggressive war there? can you go half way on that fight? >> i don't think you can do it and maintain this mission. in other words the president has to be clear about what it is he
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wants to achieve. they are now talking about rebuilding afghanistan. if you do that, they're probably going to need a lot more troops to do that. i think they need to find a scaled back way in order to basically suppress al qaeda without de -- >> okay. can you say -- can he stay in the country with a small complement, or does he have to go big time or else leave the country and do it offshore? >> i think it's smaller complement and other means. but i don't know what going big time means at this point. >> delivering the report to the president -- >> with all of the challenges, it's hard to imagine him going really big time. also hard to imagine walking away. >> we're starting this as we speak, david gregory, thank you. thank you ron brownstein, join us tomorrow night for more "hardball." "countdown" with keith olbermann starts right now. which of these stories will
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you be talking about? tomorrow, the president aims high, the big explanatory speech on health care reform joint session of congress. david axelrod nails senator grassley. if you're sitting at a table negotiating in good faith, you probably don't send out mailers saying help me stop obama-care. >> anything that smacked to a public option like a co-op, indeed, i will veto that if it comes to my desk if that's in there. >> no, i don't think the congressman smokes crack. the torture investigation, agreeing it's not broad enough. investigate both john hugh and you know who. >> my opinion of the attorney general is he should not limit it to the people who may have committed the torture, but people who may have ordered it, such as the vice president. >> tom ridge says he was misquoted in his own autobiography.
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